REPATRIATION OF ILLEGAL AFGHAN REFUGEES

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  1. Soviet Invasion of Afghanistan in 1979 resulted in mass exodus of millions of refugees into Pakistan, which continued from there on, experiencing a spike again during US Occupation of the country after 9/11 attacks. Thousands more spilled over after US Withdrawal in August 2021, increasing the numbers to around staggering 4 million.According to a February 2017 UNHCR Report, approximately 1.3 million are registered and only 0.8 million possess registration cards.  These refugees are heavy burden on Pakistan’s resources having far-reaching political, social, economic and internal security ramifications.

  2. After arrival of Afghan refugees in Pakistan, a competition started between refugees and local citizens over resources. The anger and resentment amongst locals of the two provinces, where they were accommodated i.e. Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (KP) and Balochistan, increased with the passage of time due to rising toll on availability of resources.Both the provinces are poor and mass migration of refugees affected economic interests of locals of these two provinces in terms of following:-
    1. Cheap labor, depriving local labors.
    2. Inflation due to increase in demand of commodities.
    3. Tax evasion creating burden for local taxpayers.
    4. Availability of water, land and animal grazing-pastures.
    5. Overcrowding of education institutions and transportation.
    6. Increased consumption of energy resources.
  3. Refugees belonging to Pashtun ethnicity were initially welcomed in KP and Pashtun dominated areas of Northern Balochistan but soon the locals began to despise them when their interest clashed and other social evil like murder, kidnapping for ransom, prostitution etc. soared in in the areas with more refugee population.
  4. Expanding drugs trade in Pakistan in last few decades also raises questions on the presence of Afghan Refugees. In 2012 and 2013, UNODC in collaboration with the Ministry of Narcotics Control, the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL) and other national stakeholders conducted a national survey on drug use to estimate the extent and patterns of drug use in Pakistan. The overall results of the survey revealed that approximately 6 percent of the population – 9 percent of the adult male population and 2.9 percent of the adult female population – equivalent to 6.7 million people – had used a substance other than alcohol and tobacco in the preceding year, while nearly 700 people die every day because of drugs related diseases. According to reports the highest opiate users in Pakistan belongs to province of Balochistan and KP, which are the hub of Afghan refugees.
  5. Afghan wars and influx of refugees to Pakistan brought Kalashinkov culture along. Refugees in pursuit of easy money smuggled illegal weapons from Afghanistan that contributed in ethnic, tribal and sectarian violence inside the country.
  6. Children who start working in Pakistan between the ages of 5 and 7 make up a quarter of the workforce. The majority of these kids are from families that emigrated from Afghanistan. These kids perform manual labor, polish boots, work in hotels, and wash cars. They were utilized by terrorist organizations to wreak devastation in the country by recruiting them as suicide bombers because of their dire living conditions and economic situation.
  7. Refugee camps near the border are used by terrorist as their hideouts and bases to launch their operations inside Pakistan and residents act as facilitators and abettors, most of the time. Modern sophisticated weapons left by the US Forces have added another lethal dimension to it. Recent incidents have proved the involvement of Afghan Refugees in the attacks.
  8. The political affiliation of refugees with their native country creates disturbance and their presence accelerates existing internal conflicts in the host countries. Refugees create problems, when they serve as domestic opposition or support one party’s agenda against the other. Under such conditions, a kind of mistrust takes place amongst locals which lead towards crisis. In Pakistan they covertly and sometimes overtly support likeminded politicians and narratives against Pakistan as is in the case of border issues, Transit Trade between the two countries and greater Pakhtunistan.
  9. In Balochistan, local Baloch population consider refugees as threat to their majority status. They believe that many refugees have obtained CNICs somehow or the other and have adopted Pakistani identity causing a demographic change resulting in conversion of Baloch Population into minority. Baloch nationalists in Pakistan are one of the main forces that demand repatriation of Afghan Refugees back to their country.
  10. The influx of Afghan Refugees in Pakistan resulted in adverse effects on environment in the shape of vanishing woodland and pastures and barricaded eradication of diseases like polio due to continuous cross border migration from Afghanistan to Pakistan. Refugees in Pakistan are living almost more than four decades, camps have changed into villages, need for fire wood and construction have increased and millions of livestock foraging resulted in soil erosions and is threatening the capacity of environment to renew and revive the ground water resources.
  11. Throughout the past four to five decades different governments in Pakistan with the assistance of world community have facilitated Afghan Refugees with all available resources and have borne major portion of the cost of their maintenance. Current economic condition of the country does not allow further investment and future stability and development of Pakistan will be facilitated by withdrawal of these 4 million refugees to their country.
  12. Pakistan’s security is of utmost importance. Plans for eviction already exists but due to political and international pressure, the then governments were unable to implement it. Refugees were not going back to their country due to war like situation during Ashraf Ghani’s government but now situation has improved and they have to leave. Pak is not forcefully implementing this plan and it is not against registered Afghan immigrants and those having valid visas. It will also be implemented on illegal immigrants from other countries.
  13. Pak will follow its deportation laws like any other country in the world. Work is in progress on data collection of illegal foreigners. The policy of repatriation will be gradually implemented through a systematic mechanism. Government is in contact with Afghan authorities as well as with UNHCR to work towards that end.At the same time coordination is carried out with US and some other countries to issue visas to Afghans who previously worked for their forces in Afghanistan.

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